In China, how much research funding do faculty members in physical science departments tend to receive?

What are the approximate grant sizes and grant success rates in natural sciences from the National Natural Science Foundation of China?

For example, would a 100,000-USD/year grant be considered a competitive offer?


2 Answers 2


I will state here what I know. Which is not too much, I am afraid. I am a postdoc in China since almost 2 years. I am not planning on staying longer as I did not identify with their work culture in the academia. Therefore I did not invest much of my time into learning about funding in China and applying for grants.

From my understanding there are several funding sources, the main ones being Province-level and National-level. They open calls for applications at different times of the year; e.g. September and March. Chances of success are highly dependent on your 'face' with your peers, the status of your college/institution, and nature of the grant call. Foreigners have an edge nowadays, particularly as there are grants specific for international projects. Currently in Biology the main topics being funded revolve around 'applied agriculture' and a few 'hot' fields such as STEM cells, CRISPR.

Currently (as of 2015-2017) there is a lot of funding available for research in China. Grants vary in amount of money they can provide, varying from what I've heard from mere 10k USD to much more. However one should be aware that grants come with specifications on what they should be spent on. For instance, there are grants which more flexible (usually modest) and more voluminous budgets for purchasing equipment, or others dedicated to "projects". I have heard of grants above 100k USD as you mention, for specific projects and head-start for fresh professors. The way it works, there are always workarounds in spending the money outside of the rules, but that will depend on knowing the ways and a lot of 'guanxi'. Beware of being caught redhanded as regulatory measures can be quite strict in modern China.

That said, it is my opinion that 100k USD per year sounds like excellent funding opportunity, but obviously the amount must be gauged in face of what it is, general context, and how it should be spent. If that includes salary, conference stipends, publication charges, and no significant structure or equipment is already available, this amount is likely not much. Keep in mind that because of careless handling and a lack of a maintenance culture, quite frequently equipment which appear listed as available at Chinese institutions actually may not be working properly... hence you may have to negotiate new ones. I was attracted to my postdoc position by being shown pictures of heavy equipment such as a GC, centrifuges, PCR machines, microscopes, a lyophiliser, which in the end are not working but just sitting around.

My advice: visit first, take a long critical look around, and see through what is being promised and, most importantly implied between vague statements and contract lines. There is a lot of opportunity in China but one must be prepared for some intricate game.

  • 1
    +1 quite frequently equipment which appear listed as available at Chinese institutions actually may not be working properly..... like 90 % of times!!! so true
    – SSimon
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 4:36

I am a professor in China, and for the typical individual application to the NSFC one may ask for up to 600,000 RMB for perhaps 3 years (a little bit less than 30,000 USD a year approx.). And not all professors get this. As a foreigner, you need to write the application in Chinese and learn about how to write a successful application according to the local requirements.

That being said, besides the typical individual application to NSFC there are lots of programs that can bring you many other types of funding. For example, the 1000 talent program or youth 1000 talent program for special talents coming to China can give you almost 1 million $ funding, distributed over 5 years.

Besides, depending on the province and city additional funding is available. For example, in Shenzhen, there is a lot of money for individuals and teams, as the city is generous to talents. Personally, I receive more than 8 times more funding than in Canada, which has been a major boost to my research. Having said all of this, I think that 100,000 USD is good and you may be able to get more from city/province/NSFC.

  • thank you @phil for the answer, can I get a link to 1000 talent program or youth 1000 talent program ?
    – SSimon
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 4:38
  • Do you have a source for NSFC grant applications needing to be in Chinese? The guidelines I've been given say that the abstract needs to be in Chinese but the main body of the application can just be in English.
    – Bobgom
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 11:23
  • The main website for the (young) 1000 talent in English is that one : 1000plan.org/en But it does not give that much information on the English page. Actually, if you apply for these programs it must be through a university and the university will help you or give you more information about how to fill the form.
    – Phil
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 5:38
  • @bobgom My source: last year I applied for the NSFC individual funding (surface project - 常规面上项目) and the form must be filled in Chinese. I had to write about 8 pages in Chinese to describe my project. On the website for submitting the form, you can choose English but the online form is only half in English (at least in 2017 - March). Besides, when I applied for the Youth 1000 program in 2015 the project had to be written in Chinese, although during the project defense in Beijing, I could speak English.
    – Phil
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 5:45
  • But in any case, you can write your project in English and ask someone or pay someone to translate it to Chinese for you.
    – Phil
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 5:47

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